Immigration and Naturalization Service v. St. Cyr

PETITIONER: Immigration and Naturalization Service
RESPONDENT: St. Cyr
LOCATION: Rhode Island General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 00-767
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 533 US 289 (2001)
ARGUED: Apr 24, 2001
DECIDED: Jun 25, 2001

ADVOCATES:
Edwin S. Kneedler - Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., argued the cause for the petitioner
Lucas Guttentag - Argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

On March 8, 1996, Enrico St. Cyr, a lawful permanent resident, pled guilty in a Connecticut court to a charge of selling a controlled substance. That conviction made him deportable. Before the effective dates of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) section 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 was interpreted to give the Attorney General broad discretion to waive deportation of resident aliens. The AEDPA and IIRIRA restricted the class of aliens depending on section 212(c) for relief. St. Cyr's removal proceedings commenced after AEDPA's and IIRIRA's effective dates. Subsequently, the Attorney General claimed that the AEDPA and IIRIRA withdrew his authority to grant St. Cyr a waiver. The District Court accepted St. Cyr's habeas corpus application and agreed that the new restrictions do not apply to removal proceedings brought against an alien who pleaded guilty to a deportable crime before their enactment. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Question

Do the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 strip district courts of their jurisdiction under the general habeas corpus statute to entertain St. Cyr's challenge? Do the AEDPA and IIRIRA deny relief under section 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 to aliens who would have been eligible for such relief at the time of their convictions?

Media for Immigration and Naturalization Service v. St. Cyr

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 24, 2001 in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. St. Cyr

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 25, 2001 in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. St. Cyr

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 00-767 Immigration Naturalization Service v. St. Cyr and a companion case will be announced by Justice Stevens.

John Paul Stevens:

Each of the plaintiffs in these cases is an alien who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States, but is deportable because he pleaded guilty to a criminal offense.

At the time of each of the guilty pleas, federal law provided that the alien could apply to the Attorney General for a discretionary waiver of deportation.

Literally, thousands of such discretionary waivers had been granted in the years prior to 1996, when Congress enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

As the Government construes those statutes, they withdrew the Attorney General’s authority to grant plaintiffs the waivers that were available when they agreed to plead guilty.

Moreover, the government also contends that procedural provisions in those statues deprive both the Federal District Courts and the Courts of Appeals of jurisdiction to review the Attorney General’s legal conclusion that discretionary relief is no longer available.

Thus, these cases raise both procedural and substantive questions.

For reasons stated in opinions filed with the Clerk, we answer these questions the same way that the Court of Appeals did.

We hold that the Court of Appeals does not have jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiffs’ petitions for direct review of the decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals, but that the District Court does have jurisdiction in a habeas corpus proceeding to order a hearing on their applications for a discretionary waiver.

On the merits we hold that the repeal of the Attorney General’s authority to grant discretionary relief, does not apply to aliens who pleaded guilty before the enactment of the 1966 legislation.

Justice Scalia has filed dissenting opinions that are joined in full by the Chief Justice and Justice Thomas, and in part by Justice O’Connor.